by Michael Wilson BecerrilOctober 19, 2022
In an earlier post, I argued that we observers of international affairs are responsible for critical thinking when consuming the news. This is particularly true when reading stories about political violence published in mainstream news outlets in the country where I live currently, the U.S. No ‘for-profit’ company is impartial, by definition; they have political and economic stakes in how they select and package information.
I also argued that few outlets are equipped to analyze the dynamics of nonviolent conflict, including nonviolent resistance to militarism. Yet these elements shed light on our understanding of war. They give texture to how we conceive the power politics at play and options for returning to peace.
In this second part of my argument, I highlight news outlets that courageously report on alternatives to war, as well as nonviolent resistance to the war in Ukraine. I also discuss specific ways readers can collectively defy militarism in terms of how they consume media.
Who is reporting on the people disrupting business as usual and demanding an end to war? Only a handful of transnational news organizations—most of them independent media outlets—have dared to criticize military involvement in the war in Ukraine (even at the risk of being accused of being Putin allies, an old trope which has no founding in reality).
Among others, the standout has been Democracy Now!, whose exemplary journalism covers a far wider range of perspectives than mainstream media. This is due largely to their refusal of corporate sponsors, but also to deeper ethical commitments at the heart of that refusal.
In the first few days of the invasion, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman hosted Ukrainian activists who called for pacifism, nonviolent resistance, and an end to militarism. Their coverage has consistently elevated the discussion to a far wider range of perspectives than that allotted in U.S. mainstream media. For example, whereas the mainstream media have glossed over this major aspect of the story, Democracy Now! has consistently highlighted the West’s dependence on fossil fuels as a major obstacle to meaningful peace.
Global Citizen publishes stories about the young people around the world leading the way in urging for peace and solidarity with refugees, instead of spinning the issue as purely a national security threat. The War Resisters League and the War Prevention Initiative have produced reports and statements condemning militarism—not only made by Russian invaders but also by NATO countries. Have U.S. outlets such as NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, and their like covered any of these stories? Why not?
If you are what you eat, then beware the information you consume. However, individual choices won’t change the war economy’s grip on our access to information; only collective action can do that.
One way to counter militaristic tendencies in U.S. media is pressuring decision-makers (e.g., through organized sit-ins) for laws that would place reasonable limits on the potential cross-pollination between the war industry and the production of public information.
Another method that any media consumer in the world can adopt is an editorial boycott. Talk to your friends, neighbors, and people in your various communities about why we must not click on articles with headlines that toot the horns of militarism or that suggest toxic media narratives around violence. Instead, we should be subscribing to RSS feeds and newsletters of the news sites mentioned above (Democracy Now!, Global Citizen, Waging Nonviolence, etc.) that give proper attention to pro-peace mobilization and that give airtime to experts of nonviolent resistance and civilian-based defense.
Engaging our digital communities is generally accessible, regardless of the country we’re in, our background, our mobility, and other factors. Anyone can participate, for example, by commenting on notoriously pro-war journalists’ Twitter threads and Facebook posts about articles they write, and sharing links to articles that provide information about nonviolent alternatives and alternative perspectives on war and peace.
War is never contained. It has incalculable repercussions on other regions that are already volatile and fragile. This is because, most obviously, the environment connects us all. What happens in Ukraine is already harming the world’s most affected peoples—food prices are surging, for example. How many megatons of fossil fuels have been burned during this war? How many living things and ecosystems have been harmed or destroyed?
Humanity’s best bet in averting the worst and preventing future wars is to nonviolently defy militarism, state violence, and the colonial global order. Will we once again allow the media to prime us into accepting and celebrating war in the name of peace, or will we rise up against it?
Michael Wilson Becerril (he/él) is an activist scholar with more than ten years of experience working for social and environmental justice. His written work has appeared in the Journal of Resistance Studies, Feminist Review, Terrorism & Political Violence, Peace Review, Human Rights Review, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, the Environmental Justice Atlas, and Latino Rebels.Read More